VIDEO: To-do list for Mo'unga
SPOTLIGHT: Former All Blacks hooker James Parsons has outlined what Richie Mo’unga needs to do in order to keep Beauden Barrett out of the New Zealand No.10 jersey.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Parsons said he believes the controversial 10-15 playmaking axis will become a thing of the past this year due to the rise in form of other fullbacks across New Zealand and Barrett’s outspoken preference to play at first-five.
Since 2019, the All Blacks have used Mo’unga at No.10 and Barrett at No.15 in a dual playmaker scheme that has delivered mixed results, but Parsons said both players will be gunning for the same position in Ian Foster’s side this year.
“I think the challenge is coming now. I think Beaudy’s made it pretty clear he’s coming back to really go for the 10 as well,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“The idea of the 10-15 axis is gone because of the form of [Damian] McKenzie, Jordie [Barrett] and Will [Jordan], and the fact that Beaudy just wants to get back at 10.
“I think this will be the year that will probably bring the best out of Richie because the genuine pressure of having to fight for that jersey will be on.”
Crusaders scrumhalf and Bryn Hall added that that pressure in the national set-up will bring the best out of Mo’unga as he hasn’t yet had to face internal competition for a starting spot.
“We’ve talked around his success at Super Rugby level and we have had 10s in behind, but probably not to the same calibre, and that’s no disrespect to our 10s,” Hall said of his long-time halves partner at the Crusaders.
“They’re chipping away really nicely, they’re great when given the opportunities.
“If he [Barrett] said he’s coming back to stake his claim for having a No.10, that kind of pressure, it’s going to be really interesting to see how Richie goes because he hasn’t had that kind of pressure at the Crusaders, but he’s going to have it at test level.
“It’ll be an interesting season for the All Blacks when he is selected around how that pressure goes for him.”
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In order to keep Barrett astray from the flyhalf spot, Parsons said Mo’unga needs to rise to the challenge of becoming New Zealand’s best first-five by leading the All Blacks out of their “lean years” and command tests in the same way he does for the Crusaders.
“We’ve had some lean years, so, as I say, if he can take charge and run that side like he does with the Crusaders, that’ll be the true testament to him, and I think he knows that. I get the feeling he knows that,” he said.
“The way Bryn speaks about it, he clearly does and, from me reading between the lines there, he seems pretty motivated to get in there and do that.”